The owner of HK Parts asked a Utah federal court to toss out the jury verdict that convicted him of violating gun and tax laws and to grant him a new trial.
Attorneys representing business owner Adam Webber raise issues with jury instructions and the exclusion of witness testimony, according to the motion filed last week.
A jury convicted Webber in September of selling firearms despite a signed agreement with federal authorities prohibiting him from applying for and operating a Federal Firearms Licensed business as well as filing false tax returns.
The motion says the instructions incorrectly described the relationship between an FFL holder and employees under federal law. The motion argues Webber was insulated from criminal liability because his employer, Midnight Labs, a licensed dealer, authorized him to sell firearms on its behalf. The argument, in short: Midnight Labs “was the ‘dealer’ in question, rather than Mr. Webber.”
“An individual employee is not required to hold his own FFL, because it is not the employee, but the dealer on whose behalf he works, who is ‘engaged in the business’ of selling firearms,” the motion says, and adds, “But a licensed dealer may properly engage in the business of dealing firearms through owners and employees who are not themselves independently licensed.”
According to the motion, Midnight Labs’ owner Bryan Croft alone had access to the business’s firearm acquisition and disposition record book, which is required of an FFL, and received and stored shipments until a final transaction took place. Webber only stored firearms at his house before shipping.
The motion adds that Croft, after establishing his business and applying for an FFL, sought out Webber and hired him in 2009.
Utah-state records show Webber as the registered owner of HKParts.net, which he established in 2003, and a search of FFLs in the area identify Midnight Labs as the licensee name for the website.
The motion also says the court improperly excluded testimony from defense witnesses who could have described specific firearm transactions and explained missteps Webber took when preparing his individual and business tax returns.
For the transactions, the motion describes a relationship Webber had with another FFL before working with Midnight Labs. The motion says the witness, a business owner, would have said that firearm lower receivers — which are considered legal firearms — sold through HKParts.net in 2008 were provided and stored by a separate business entity, Illinois-based Michael’s Machines.
The other witness, Webber’s accountants, would have told the jury that HKParts.net “had no accounting system” before they were hired in 2011 and under their guidance Webber amended past filings.
During the trial in September, federal prosecutors told the jury Webber sold firearms through his business by operating with a license obtained by another Utah resident and on two occasions sold guns to an undercover federal agent. Also, from 2007 to 2010, he reported earning around $180,000 despite gross receipts from his business totaling more than $10 million.
Webber’s 2007 agreement barring him from operating as an FFL was a compromise with the U.S. government after he failed to properly transfer a machine gun to a buyer. The agreement had been challenged in a civil suit against the government, which was put on hold until the criminal trial closed.